Postcards from Italy

Below are some paintings from my week here in Italy. I was supposed to be on the lakes up North this week, but I got rained out. Here in Tuscany the weather is a bit more summery, even if there is an early Autumn chill in the air (and we’ve had a few days of rain here too).

san gimignano Postcards from Italy

San Gimignano. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I lived in Florence for 20 years and never painted the classic, postcard view of the Duomo. I also spent my summers about 20 minutes away from San Gimignano and never painted the towers. I thought this year I would get them both out of the way.

piazzale michelangelo Postcards from Italy

Tourist Stands, Piazzale Michelangelo. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Most of the time I stayed in the countryside working on this larger piece:

mulberry tree tuscany Postcards from Italy

The Mulberry Tree. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

I’m hoping for one more day of sun to finish, but it’s not looking good.

Here is the sketch:

mulberry tree study Postcards from Italy

Mulberry Tree Study. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And in the evenings I painted a series of sunsets from the house:

torricella sunset 1 Postcards from Italy

Torricella Sunset #1. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

torricella sunset 2 Postcards from Italy

Torricella Sunset #2. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

torricella sunset 3 Postcards from Italy

Torricella Sunset #3. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

New Florence Academy of Art Website

florence academy New Florence Academy of Art Website
The last few years I was in Florence I taught landscape painting at the Florence Academy of Art. They have recently updated their website to reflect better their professional approach to teaching painting and sculpture.

Their alumni gallery is especially impressive for the sheer number of professional working realist painters and teachers they have produced in their short history, as well as the high quality of the art produced and the great variety of style in the works. ‘Academic’ art is sometimes criticized for producing painters and sculptors whose work all looks the same. Looking through the work displayed on the FAA site, the director Daniel Graves and his faculty have clearly done an excellent job of allowing individualism to flourish, while at the same time giving all their students the proper tools to realize their vision.

The Florence Academy’s drawing, painting and sculpture departments are all excellent and their écorché program (originally set-up by Andy Ameral who currently teaches at the Golden Gate Atelier in the SF Bay Area) is something I regret not having taken advantage of while I still lived in Florence. The FAA is also alone among the schools in Florence in having a number of gallery contacts, so the best students are funneled into the gallery system and avoid the tedious process of getting someone to show their work.

Backlit Tuscany

Below are some paintings from a very short (weekend) trip to Tuscany. Since I had so little time to paint I chose only subjects that were backlit, i.e. had the sun behind them.

Mercato Santo Spirito Backlit Tuscany

Market Stall in Piazza Santo Spirito. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

It’s probably different for every painter, but I find I can work much faster and get better results when painting towards the sun. It becomes much more about drawing and values. Frontlit subjects require a painter to capture every small nuance in hue and chroma which, for me, takes much longer.

Montisi Backlit Tuscany

Burning Leaves, Montisi. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Piazza del Carmine Backlit Tuscany

Piazza del Carmine. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Pescatori sul Arno Backlit Tuscany

Fishermen on the Banks of the Arno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

It’s interesting to look at historic landscape painters and their preference for lighting in their views. For example, the Spanish painter Carlos de Haes went for the backlit subject in many of his plein air and studio landscapes.

haes 600x380 Backlit Tuscany

Carlos de Haes -La Torre de Douarnenez

picos de europa c 1875 600x374 Backlit Tuscany

Carlos de Haes – Picos de Europa.

And Camille Corot’s best works are usually backlit:

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot 006 600x414 Backlit Tuscany

Camille Corot – The Bridge at Narni.

As are Dennis Miller Bunker’s:

Chicago art inst bunker larmor 600x381 Backlit Tuscany

Dennis Miller Bunker – Brittany Town Morning.

The French Impressionists were also big on the midday backlit view, which is surprising since their draftsmanship wasn’t the best and they seemed so focused on color.

Claude Monet   The Cliff of Aval Etrétat   Google Art Project 600x427 Backlit Tuscany

Claude Monet – The Cliff of Aval.

On the other hand, the Spanish painters Joaquín Sorolla and Martín Rico y Ortega seemed to love the bright whites, dark skies, and strong hues of frontlit subjects in Spain and Italy. And the Italian painter Rubens Santoro painted some amazing sunlight-filled views of Italy which are also often frontlit.

Sorolla 600x311 Backlit Tuscany

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida – The Return of the Catch, Valencia Beach

view of paris from the trocadero by martc3adn rico y ortega c 1883 600x297 Backlit Tuscany

Martín Rico y Ortega – View of Paris from the Trocadero.

santoro 600x354 Backlit Tuscany

Rubens Santoro – On the Mediterranean Coast

Isaac Levitan’s best paintings are usually frontlit (or overcast).

levitan 600x491 Backlit Tuscany

Isaac Levitan – March.

And finally, on the other side of the world, the great Australian painter Arthur Streeton also used the frontlit view often to show the heat of the Australian summers.

streeton 600x398 Backlit Tuscany

Arthur Streeton – Sunlight.

Obviously, all of these great artists tried to capture a wide variety of light effects in their paintings. Still, looking over a single painter’s oeuvre, it’s fun to try to discern a pattern. Some of the other great landscape painters I (briefly) researched for this post were John Singer Sargent, Telemaco Signorini, and Edward Seago, but I wasn’t able to see any preference in their work (even Sorolla was a bit of a stretch).

Nymphs in Arcadia

Since my current larger projects are taking a while I thought I would rehash some older work. This is part of a series of paintings I did in 2008 of the small Piaggio Apini or ‘worker bees’ (as opposed to the Vespas or ‘wasps’ made by the same company). They were used by the artisans and tradesmen in Florence until they were banned recently by the new mayor.

untitled 34 Nymphs in Arcadia

Ape, Via del Campuccio (?). 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

amore ti amo Nymphs in Arcadia

Amore Ti Amo. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Since they move pretty quickly and I couldn’t always stand in the road with my easel, some were done from photographs. This was the only time I ever tried working solely from photography and I decided it wasn’t for me. I spent too much time training my eyes to work from life.

ape piaggio oltrarno Nymphs in Arcadia

Apino, Via Maffia (#2). 40 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Ironically the ones I painted from life often look more photographic than the ones painted from photos. I think it’s because one has so much more information available when working on site.

nymph in arcadia Nymphs in Arcadia

Nymph in Arcadia. 40 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

The title of the post comes from a show I had in 2008 in a local cafe showing these little sketches. They say selling art in Florence is like selling ice in Antarctica, but these proved surprisingly popular.

ape del trippiao Nymphs in Arcadia

I’Trippaio di Sant’Ambrogio. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

ape campagna Nymphs in Arcadia

June Rent. 25 x 40 cm, oil on linen.

ape oltrarno Nymphs in Arcadia

Via Toscanella. 25 x 40 cm, oil on linen.

camionetto via maggio Nymphs in Arcadia

Via Maggio. 30 x 40 cm, oil on linen.

apino del contadino Nymphs in Arcadia

Apino, San Gimigniano. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

via maffia Nymphs in Arcadia

Via Maffia (#1). 30 x 20 cm, oil on linen. 

apino torrigiani Nymphs in Arcadia

Vivaio Torrigiani. 20 x 25 cm, oil on linen.

The Tuscan Summer

woman under an olive tree The Tuscan Summer

Tina Reading under an Olive Tree. 110 cm x 90 cm, oil on linen.

Here are a few paintings from the last week in Tuscany. I did this large portrait of my wife reading under an olive tree. Being able to get far back is really great for painting portraits, even outside (I’ve discussed this before).

Here was the set-up:

portrait in chianti The Tuscan Summer

Plein air portraiture in the Tuscan countryside.

As idyllic as it looks, it was ridiculously hot. After the last four hour midday session I got sick from the heat and had cold sweats, nausea and a headache. An occupational hazard.

These were some of the smaller sketches:

cloud studies The Tuscan Summer

Three Tuscan Cloud Studies. 20 x 14 cm ea.

laundry and lemon trees The Tuscan Summer

Laundry and Lemon Trees. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

haybales in chianti The Tuscan Summer

Hay Bales along the Road, Noce. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

pistoletto headache The Tuscan Summer

Pistoletto’s “Headache” at Porta Romana, 20 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

The above painting went face-down into the dirt when the dog pulled the easel over, hence the debris. Another occupational hazard. The trick to getting much of the dirt or sand out is to let the painting dry completely, then clean it.

piazza santo spirito The Tuscan Summer

Piazza Santo Spirito on a Sunday in July. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Oltrarno Exhibition

oltrarno Oltrarno Exhibition

I’ll be having another exhibition for charity next week at the Osteria di Santo Spirito. The paintings are all sketches from this winter painted in the Oltrarno of Florence and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Amici di Santo Spirito association. The opening reception will be on Thursday, February 25th from 6 to 9 pm. You can see some of the work here.

Recent Cityscapes

Here are a few recent cityscapes around the Oltrarno (the south side of the river in Florence). Painted with my little cigar box set-up.
(Update: Here are a few more)
via romana Recent Cityscapes

San Felice in Piazza. 14 x 16 in. Oil on panel.

presso di san martino Recent Cityscapes

Scaffolding on Borgo Tegolaio. 12 x 8 in. Oil on panel.

della chiesa Recent Cityscapes

Via della Chiesa. 10 x 14 in. oil on panel

via del campuccio1 390x600 Recent Cityscapes

Via del Campuccio. 12 x 8 in. Oil on Panel.

via del campuccio2 429x600 Recent Cityscapes

Torrigiani Garden Wall. 16 x 12 in. Oil on panel.

P1040251 Recent Cityscapes

Can't remember the name of this street. 12 x 8 in, oil on panel.

P1040256 Recent Cityscapes

Porta San Miniato. 8 x 10 in, oil on panel.

P1040257 Recent Cityscapes

Via del Canneto. 10 x 14 in, oil on panel.

Contemporary Florentine Realism

Mia madre 349x600 Contemporary Florentine Realism

Mia Madre by Elena Arcangeli.

Tomorrow is the vernissage for the first show I’ve ever ‘curated’ (I actually chose the artists, but not necessarily the pieces). There is a lot of excellent work on display from the teachers and alumni of the three traditional painting schools here: The Angel Academy of Art, Charles H. Cecil Studios, and the Florence Academy of Art.

The opening will be from 6 to 8pm at the Cami Gallery so if you’re in the neighborhood please stop by. The address is via della Condotta 36r:

Here are some images from the show:

Update: Here is a very short time-lapse film of the evening, you can use pause to see frames individually (sorry for the lazy photography, but I didn’t want to run around with a camera all night).

Saturdays in the Corsini Gardens

seansara Saturdays in the Corsini Gardens

Sean and Sara painting this morning.

At the moment I am teaching the Florence Academy of Art’s landscape painting class along with Jordan Sokol. Princess Giorgiana Corsini has generously given us the use of the private gardens at her palazzo, which is one of the more beautiful places to paint on an April morning. I took a few pictures this morning as the place is so stunning.

One interesting thing about the course in general is that the advanced painting students tend to have more difficulty that the intermediate group.  I think they assume that because they have painted so much in the studio already that it should be just the same outside. It is actually very different, and they tend to get frustrated quicker that the students with less experience in painting. Another problem I notice every year is that the students bring the wrong materials and think they can just wing it. Painting is so difficult even when your materials are all perfect, it becomes almost impossible if you have missing or incorrect equipment.

This year the class is going well. Today was only our second meeting and already the work is showing great improvement.

pablo Saturdays in the Corsini Gardens

Pablo painting the portico.

Open studio

openstudio Open studio

Leo and Josh with the model.

On Friday April 17th, Greg, Josh, Leo and I will be having an open studio in our beautiful 19th-century painting studio in Piazza Donatello. Everyone is welcome. You can pop by during the day to beat the crowds if you like, but let someone know you’re coming. Otherwise we’ll have fine wine and even better art from 18:00 onwards.